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Gujarat farmers' suicide: Reasons include failure to offer mimimum support price for cotton, financial crisis

By Our Representative
A fact-finding team, consisting of representatives of three Gujarat-based farmers’ organizations, has reached the conclusion, on the basis of a spot query, that farmers are in deep financial crisis, one reason why a new tendency are cropped up among them to commit suicide. A report prepared by Persis Ginwalla , Balendra Vaghela and Sagar Rabari of Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat, Saurashtra-Kutch Lok Hit Sangharsh Samiti and the Khedut Samaj Gujarat, respectively, said, as against Rs 800 offered to them as minimum support price (MSP) for per 20 kg of cotton, the minimum input cost comes to at least Rs 1,042.
“This suggests that each farmer suffers a loss of at least Rs 242 per 20 kg while producing cotton. MSP is what the government must offer to cotton farmers, but in the market they get just about Rs 600 to Rs 650, while the government is totally indifferent towards offering farmers with MSP. This is against what they had earned last year, around Rs 1,600 per 20 kg, one reason why they decided to sow cotton on their fields in large numbers”, said Vaghela, releasing their report to mediapersons in Ahmedabad.
The spot inquiry of the condition of farmers was carried out in a village where a young farmer Arvindbhai Bhupatbhai Nagani, committed suicide by setting himself to fire as a symbolic protest against cotton prices on December 22. Belonging to Dharai village, near Chotila taluka of Rajkot district of Saurashtra region, the report said, majority of the 4,000 villagers belong to the backward Koli community. It added, considering the cattle population of the village, it should have around 1,200 acres of grazing land; “but most of it is riddled with encroachment, and the actual land for grazing is just about 33 acres.”
“Drinking water was envisaged from Narmada, and though a pipeline was laid down, water has still not reached the village. Upon lodging a complaint, the villagers were told that since the village is located in a remote area, it is not feasible for water to reach there. There is a borewell in the village from which drinking water is supplied, but during summers the groundwater levels go down drastically, and there is acute scarcity”, the report said.
The report further said, “There is no health centre in the village. In a nearby village, Anandpur, there there is a health centre, there is no resident doctor, and services are not available when required. Necessary health services are available at Vinchhiya village, which is 16 kilometres away.” It added, while there is a primary school up to eighth standard, the nearest high school is about 24 km away, in Jasdan.
Situated on a terrain, no irrigation facilities are available to the farmers of the village. Farmers, as a result, are able to grow just one crop, earning supplementary income from animal husbandry. “Due to rising prices and in order to shoulder family responsibilities, farmers are switching over to cash crops”, the report said.
It added, “Farmers though that as cotton crop is relatively more rewarding, increasing number of farmers moved towards growing it. However, input costs for growing the crop, including labour costs, are high. Because of lack of education, the farmers are unable to keep track of income they can earn by growing the crop, and they in for producing the crop in the hope of getting a bumper crop”.
Addressing newspersons, Vaghela said, reports of farmers’ suicides are continuing to pour in, especially from Saurashtra region. “With the latest report of a farmer from Kalavad village in Jamnagar district having committed suicide on Monday, already, over the last fortnight, in all four farmers have committed suicide”, he said. Added Indukumar Jani, a senior activist, “Large number of small and marginal farmers is go to the moneylender as the formal banking system, including the cooperative banks, do not offer loan at a cheaper rate.”

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